Saturday, February 12, 2011

On deck

This is the time of year when even those of us who don't mind winter (and occasionally love it) start to dream of spring. I'm looking longingly this morning at the deck. The sun has some power to it and the temperature is approaching 40 and I'm calculating the degree of stupidity involved in shoveling off the snow and sitting for a spell. A large fraction of stupidity is the element of being seen to be so, which would not apply today, as there are no neighbors, boats or planes to witness - just a few laughing gulls and of course my own self-regard. Which is enough to quell the impulse.

There are many places in the world like the beautiful one on the Merrimack River that Thoreau described as "places where one may have many thoughts and not decide anything." Mine is a view of the Maine coast, with just a book, a brain and a bay. The book is mostly a prop, and the brain actually turns mostly off and tranforms into an organ of sense, for a precious moment or morning apprehending the present and disregarding the future. The bay is the thing, a symbol of Other, or Beauty, or Danger or whatever helps a human ignore his strategic plan. Living in the future is a constant tension of decisions, how-tos, anxieties, and what-ifs, and the achievement of goals devised under such conditions is often as hollow as it is satisfying. It seems to me that a hour by the ocean is worth two on the moon.

Which brings me back to baseball, another harbinger of spring. What is sport, and in fact most recreation and play, but an attempt to live in the moment? Unfortunately, baseball lives in the past and the future: a recent study calculated that the amount of action in a typical 3-hour game totalled about 10 minutes. (I think this explains the obsession with the statistics of the past, and the ever-lengthening games as managers and players over-think the future.) These past few days the Boston Globe website has been displaying a digital clock showing how long before spring training starts, and it counts down BY THE SECOND. I guess you could call that baseball's nod to living in the present, however stupidly.

So the hype can never live up to the reality. Even worse, far too many people don't even properly recreate anything, but get their stimulus, their passion second-hand through a screen. I happen to get my kicks out of closeness to nature, but almost anything that gets a body out of its brain will do. Even if I re-create the world more and more in a chair, on a deck, in an essay, I believe I'm engaged, more in fact than ever. And if I indulge a little obsession with soccer or hockey on a screen, at least there's constant action to drive away the need to plan the morrow.